On May 8th-10th, Berlin hosts the 11th edition of re:publica, a conference designed to tackle the major issues of our lives in the digital age. If you can’t make it to the actual event, here’s our overview of five key talks on mobility, urban design, and technology.

1. Urban traffic becomes intuitive

If we want traffic to keep flowing smoothly, we need to rethink mobility – and do this soon. Challenges like traffic jams and particulate pollution force us to come up with clever solutions, including a focus on equal rights of use for different mobility modes in expanding cities.

It’s a challenge that can’t be faced without major input from car manufacturers. Some of these, like Daimler, are tackling this issue by adopting their customers’ perspective: Despite ever-more complex technologies, next-gen mobility will need to feel spontaneous and intuitive. And this means teaching machines to think.

At re:publica, tech journalist Don Dahlmann and Daimler manager Axel Harries discuss CASE, the future vision of Daimler AG. CASE stands for an intelligent package of connectivity, autonomous driving, services like carsharing, plus the electrification of cars like the new smart electric drive.

It’s an ambitious vision that could radically change urban living since it encompasses all facets of being on the move.

Intuitive mobility – entering the next era of mobility with electric intelligence

When: Tuesday, May 9th, 12.30 – 1.30 pm
Where: re:publica, Stage 5, STATION Berlin, Luckenwalder Str. 4–6, 10963 Berlin

“CASE“ by Mercedes-Benz is all about connectivity and autnomous driving.
Photo: Daimler AG
Photo: Daimler AG
Photo: Daimler AG

2. Maps will get better

Nothing could be more objective than a map showing the world as it really is. But is this even true? Ute Benz and Sylvia Kautz of the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam have decided to put this statement to the test: Who benefits from maps as we know them – and who doesn’t?

Who are these maps made for? While drivers tend to be well covered by the range of maps on offer, other segments of the population tend to be neglected by traditional maps.

People with special needs, for example, would benefit from bespoke maps that highlight accessibility options: Interactive, community-updated maps could indicate wheelchair-suitable paths and sidewalks. Meanwhile, people prone to hay fever might welcome an up-to-date pollen atlas of their home town.

On a grander scale, such “inclusive mapping” would help urban planners and architects to consciously address the needs of previously excluded stakeholders.

Accessible information mapping (AIM)

When: Tuesday, May 9th, 3 – 3.30 pm
Where: re:publica, Lightning Talks 2, STATION Berlin, Luckenwalder Str. 4–6, 10963 Berlin

Discover the potential of maps.
Photo: interdisciplinarythings.com

3. Cars will be useful, even in park mode

smart will also be present during this year’s re:publica conference. Although, mind you, not the actual car will be in the limelight. Instead, the growing range of smart services will be in the focus. The “ready to“ services enhance the driving experience, connect people, and simplify everyday tasks of our urban lives.

The service smart „ready to park+“ kicked off in June 2016, making cheaper parking spots available exclusively to smart drivers. In September 2016, the flexible parcel service smart „ready to drop“ followed – it turned the trunk of the smart into a convenient package drop.

The newest sibling of the service range, smart „ready to share“, lets smart drivers share and rent out their own smart to friends, colleagues, or neighbors – easily and securely via smartphone.

The range was created within the smart lab, the Daimler think tank. The clear aim: To allow for a more effective and more intelligent use of cars in the urban environment.

Carina Sandbrink and Jakob Luickhardt present the new services live on stage and look ahead at the exciting and versatile opportunities with connected vehicles in the city.

Ready to rethink Mobility – experience the future of mobility with the smart ready to services

When: Monday, May 8th, 1 – 2 pm
Where: re:publica, 360° Theater, STATION Berlin, Luckenwalder Str. 4–6, 10963 Berlin

4. Why nerds will (not) flee the city

Simon Kowalewski combines a utopian and a practical streak: Until 2016, the IT specialist served as a member of parliament for Berlin’s Pirate Party, he ran a vegan café and co-working space, and now focuses on the phenomenon of the urban exodus of nerds.

Recent trends show people flocking to mega cities, triggering a depopulation of rural areas. But why, exactly? Since rents keep rising in metropolises, and properties go for next to nothing in the countryside, why shouldn’t we opt for a “self-determined, environmentally and climate friendly life beyond capitalist exploitation interests” in the sticks?

Kowaleski is convinced that the only stumbling blocks to an urban exodus are a hipster-inherent urge to live in cities and a lack of openness to new ideas among the rural population.

Urban exodus of the nerds

When: Wednesday, May 10th, 3 – 3.30 pm
Where: re:publica, Stage J, STATION Berlin, Luckenwalder Str. 4–6, 10963 Berlin

Why shouldn’t we opt for a self-determined, environmentally friendly life?
Photo: Getty / Westend61

5. How gamification lets us playfully contribute

Far too often, urban planning is firmly top-down, according to self-taught urban planner Karsten Michael Drohsel. Together with game designer Daniel Boy he has come up with a new approach: Their gamicipation involves democratic participation of a neighborhood’s residents and users through games specifically designed for the purpose.

Playing these games is not only fun and helps bring people together, but also highlights the long-term effects of different decisions. With their “mobile university” – basically, a bike with trailer – Drohsel & co take gamicipation to the people: out of academia and into the street.

What’s more, their Urban Super Group organization aims to spread these novel urban planning approaches to the world via analog and digital media. Their credo: Short-term gaming fun can trigger lasting processes of change. Let the games begin!

We call it Gamicipation! An approach for playful urban participation

When: Tuesday, May 9th, 2.10 – 2.45 pm
Where: re:publica, Lightning Talks 2, STATION Berlin, Luckenwalder Str. 4–6, 10963 Berlin

Urban planning becomes a game – thanks to Urban Super Group.
Photo: re:publica / Jan Michalko (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo: re:publica / Gregor Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo: re:publica / Gregor Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0)